Surrendering the Candy Bag

By Stacey Tuttle

Jimmy Kimmel issued a challenge to parents at Halloween, to tell their children that they ate all their Halloween candy and video the responses.  (Check it out, and stick with it to the end—the last ones are the best!)[1]

Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s funny or if it’s sad.  The absurdity of bursting into instant tears over a few fun-sized pieces of candy…or hitting a wall in anger over said bite-sized candy…the instant anger at the very parents who clothe and feed them…it’s tragicomical.

Tragicomical: having pathetic as well as ludicrous characteristics; a drama combining elements of tragedy and comedy; an incident or situation having both comic and tragic elements.

I mean think about it…

The comical side:  the parents didn’t take their candy, and we know that.  So it’s twice as funny.  It’s a set up, granted.  And as grown ups we can see how absurd it is to burst into tears over candy.  CANDY!  As if there won’t be a lifetime of candy, more than they could want or need available to them!  Such a little thing to burst into tears over, but isn’t that childhood?  The blissful innocence of thinking that a bag of candy is the end of the world?  That such joy and sorrow can erupt from such a simple pleasure?  Of course, as adults, we can see how silly all that passion over a bag of candy really is.

We certainly wouldn’t burst into tears over something as silly as that.  Or would we?  Is it possible that part of what is so comical about it is that we see ourselves in it so fully?  Is it possible that our “bag of candy” has simply gotten bigger and more expensive, but no less insignificant in the grand scheme of things?

The tragic side:  these children would have no food on the table whatsoever, no table at all, for that matter, no house to live in, nothing, absolutely nothing, but for their parents who give to them everything that they have.  They owe their parents everything.  Should they not be willing to give their meager bag of candy gladly to their parents, should they want it?  Is that too great a gift, too great a sacrifice for the ones who gave them life?  These kids actually think that that candy is theirs and theirs by right.

I love the boy at the end who talks about how hard he worked for that candy.  As if his mom and dad didn’t walk every step of the way with him, didn’t take him to each house, give him the costume and the ability to do the trick or treating in the first place.  Yet he thinks it was his hard work which earned the right to that candy.

Are we any different?  How quickly do we forget that we owe it ALL to God.  ALL.  It is all His; everything we have He has given us.  And everything we are able to give back to Him is only because He gave it to us that we might give it back.

It’s not that it’s wrong to be sad when we are asked to give something as an offering to the Lord.  Many times He requires of us something which makes us sad to give it.  Aren’t those the sweetest gifts though?  The ones which mean the most to us?  What if those children had been tearful and sad, but then, through tears told their mother, “Mommy, if you wanted my candy, I’m glad I had some to give you.  I love you, Mommy.”  What if they had been proud and glad to be able to give their prized possession to their mom or dad?  How sweet, how precious would that have been? The sadness over the loss, the fact that it cost them something, would make the gift all the sweeter.

But I don’t think that kind of sweetness and humility, the willingness to give a gift that cost the giver greatly, is what we saw.  The kids were mostly angry and indignant.  “How dare you presume to take MY candy without asking?”  I am sure if the parents had only taken some the kids wouldn’t have minded so much, but the parents claimed that they took it all.

And what about us, what about when God asks for ALL of us?  He does, you know.  He asks for ALL.  We are to die to self.  We are to take up our crosses and follow him.  There is a cost in discipleship[2], and it’s one we are to count carefully.  Total surrender.  He asks for nothing less.  HE is LORD and KING.  We are not.  We are to be HIS servants, He is not to be ours.  What did he say to the rich young ruler?  “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”[3] He didn’t say give a lot, he said give ALL.  ALL.

What has God been asking of you lately?  Is He asking you to give something to Him which matters greatly to you?  Or has he possibly taken something from you which matters greatly?  Are you angry?  Are you hurt?  Are you sad?  Are you willing, even though it hurts, even though it feels like it is going to kill you to give it, are you willing?  The more it hurts you to lay it down, the greater it’s worth in the sacrifice.  And He is worth it.  He is worth everything.  Every sacrifice, every piece of your heart, every ounce of your finances, whatever “candy” you may have in your bag, He is so worth it.  Don’t you realize that you wouldn’t have any candy in your bag if he hadn’t enabled you to receive it?  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.”[4] EVERY good and perfect gift is from Him.  How could we think that somehow we earned it; we worked hard for it; we deserve it?  It’s every bit as absurd as those little trick or treaters.

But Jesus didn’t just tell the rich young ruler to give it all and follow Him.  He didn’t stop there.  He offered a promise:  “AND you will have treasure in heaven.”

I have recently been reading Elisabeth Elliot’s The Path of Loneliness[5] (which I cannot recommend enough – get it, read it, study it—you’ll be glad you did!)  She writes, “With what misgivings we turn over our lives to God, imagining somehow that we are about to lose everything that matters.  Our hesitancy is like that of a tiny shell on the seashore, afraid to give up the teaspoonful of water it holds lest there not be enough in the ocean to fill it again.  Lose your life, said Jesus, and you will find it.  Give up, and I will give you all.  Can the shell imagine the depth and plenitude of the ocean?  Can you and I fathom the riches, the fullness, of God’s love?”

I cannot tell you how much I have thought about that tiny shell this past week.  SO afraid to give up it’s little bit of water, never imagining all that the ocean holds.  She is right.  We are no different.

It makes me think of something C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  Yes, God wants us to give up the little teaspoonful of water we hold; he wants us to give up our mud pies in the slum.  He asks us to give away all that we have.  But it isn’t so that we have nothing.  It is that he fills us with more, offers us something far superior which we cannot imagine—He would have us store up treasures in heaven.

Elisabeth Eliot quoted from Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven” which “describes a lonely man’s attempt to flee Him and find solace elsewhere…  He tried romantic love, he tried the love of children, he tried Nature.”  At last, the Hound of Heaven corners him and says,

“All which I took from thee I did but take,

Not for thy harms, but just that thou shouldst seek it in My arms,

All which they child’s mistake fancies as lost,

I have stored for thee at home:

Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”

I think about those kids in the Jimmy Kimmel video.  What if they should begin to think that they themselves were responsible for/the source of all the candy in their life?  Think about it.  What if they began to look to themselves to provide all the candy their hearts desired?  They have no money, no way to earn an income (unless their parents give it to them through household chores, etc.).  If they themselves are the source, then their supply will be seriously limited.  They will be forced to scrounge around for pieces dropped in the streets and discarded in the trash.  They may resort to fighting other kids and taking theirs.  It will be a meager supply and most likely a dirty, undesirable one.

But, what if they should turn to their parents and see them as the source of their treats?  The parents are able to give abundantly.  They can give so much more and so much better than the children can provide for themselves.  Knowing this, would the parents be wrong to take all the candy from the kids so that would seek it in their parents’ arms?  Is God any less just to take from us?  He doesn’t do it to harm us.  He does it so that we should seek what we need and all that we desire in HIM and him alone.

In Matthew 13 we see Jesus talking about this same exchange.  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”[6]

Elisabeth Eliot’s first husband, missionary Jim Eliot, was killed by the tribe he was trying to bring the gospel to.  She chose to see widowhood as a gift.  She understood that God, in His sovereignty, allowed her husband to be taken from her, and she chose to offer him as a gift, and to see widowhood as a gift from God, to her.  Through widowhood, God was giving her more of Himself.  She writes, “I say that I found peace.  I do not say that I was not lonely.  I was—terribly.  I do not say that I did not grieve.  I did—most sorely.  But peace of the sort the world cannot give comes, not by the removal of suffering, but in another way—through acceptance.”  She gave up her “candy” through tears, trusting all the while there was treasure of greater worth.  She seems to echo the words of Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”[7]

Jesus may be telling you to give up what you hold most dear so that he can give you something of greater worth.  Or, he may be gently taking from you what you hold most dear, for the same reason.  In either case, the only appropriate response is surrender.  Trust in the fullness, the riches of God’s love – the depth of the ocean available to you, as it were.  Trust that the kingdom of heaven is a treasure worth the offering of all that you have.  And know that God loves you enough to help you get at that treasure, even when you are content with your mud pies in the slum and your meager bag of candy.  Sometimes He asks you to make the offering.  Sometimes He makes it for you.  In either case: Surrender!  Jesus gave everything for you, and he is worth your giving everything to Him.

I ask it again, what might God be asking you to surrender to Him?  What might He be urging you to find in His arms?  Can your heart truly say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him”?  Surrender your candy bag.  There will come a day when your agony over this small offering, this small thing Jesus requires of you, will seem as laughable as these children weeping over the loss of their Halloween candy.

To quote one last time from Elisabeth Elliot,  “Can we give up all for the love of God?  When the surrender of ourselves seems too much to ask, it is first of all because our thoughts about God Himself are paltry.  We have not really seen Him, we have hardly tested Him at all and learned how good He is.  In our blindness we approach Him with suspicious reserve.  We ask how much of our fun He intends to spoil, how much He will demand from us, how high is the price we must pay before He is placated.  If we had the least notion of His loving-kindness and tender mercy, His fatherly care for His poor children, His generosity, His beautiful plans for us; if we knew how patiently He waits for our turning to Him, how gently He means to lead us to green pastures and still waters, how carefully He is preparing a place for us, how ceaselessly He is ordering and ordaining and engineering His Master Plan for our good—if we had an inkling of all this, could we be reluctant to let go of our [little bags of candy] or whatever we clutch so fiercely in our sweaty little hands?”  Surrender.  Christ is all.

[1] I have Missy at It’s Almost Naptime to thank for this video.  Her blog is wonderful!  Read it!

[2] See Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic work, The Cost of Discipleship.

[3] Mark 10:21

[4] James 1:17

[5] Elliot, Elisabeth.  The Path of Loneliness. 1988.  Reprint, Grand Rapids: Revell, 2009.

[6] Matthew 13:44-46

[7] Job 1:4